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Book Club Kits: Wishin’ and Hopin’

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

It's 1964 and ten-year-old Felix is sure of a few things: the birds and the bees are puzzling, television is magical, and this is one Christmas he'll never forget.

LBJ and Lady Bird are in the White House,Meet the Beatlesis on everyone's turntable, and Felix Funicello (distant cousin of the iconic Annette!) is doing his best to navigate fifth grade—easier said than done when scary movies still give you nightmares and you bear a striking resemblance to a certain adorable cartoon boy.

Back in his beloved fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his readers straight into the halls of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School—where Mother Filomina's word is law and goody-two-shoes Rosalie Twerski is sure to be minding everyone's business. But grammar and arithmetic move to the back burner this holiday season with the sudden arrivals of substitute teacher Madame Frechette, straight from QuÉbec, and feisty Russian student Zhenya Kabakova. While Felix learns the meaning of French kissing, cultural misunderstanding, andtableaux vivants,Wishin' and Hopin'barrels toward one outrageous Christmas.

From the Funicello family's bus-station lunch counter to the elementary school playground (with an uproarious stop at the Pillsbury Bake-Off),Wishin' and Hopin'is a vivid slice of 1960s life, a wise and witty holiday tale that celebrates where we've been—and how far we've come.

Discussion Questions


Welcome to Wally's Wishin' and Hopin' Time Machine

The dial is set for 1964.

 (The following internet links were provided by Wally Lamb to provide

context for his book: Wishin’ and Hopin’)


Do Your Remember ??

1. Sister Dymphna’s “down in the dumps” again. It’s movie time!

Bells of St Mary’s movie trailer (1:58)

2. Long before Ronald Reagan moved into the White House, he was the

mystery guest on a popular Sunday night quiz show which surely was

watched by Sal and Marie, Felix’s parents.

Ronald Reagan on What’s My Line (3:04)

3. Feet were tapping and the joint was jumping in this early 60s TV commercial,

set at a lunch counter like the Funicellos’. (By the end of the decade, cigarette

ads were banned on television.)

4. Maybe if Marie had used Kaiser quilted aluminum foil to bake

her Shepherd’s Pie Italiano, she might have won the grand prize.

Kaiser Aluminum Pillsbury Bakeoff (:59)

5. Felix’s cousin and her fellow Mouseketeers sing and dance

their way into America’s living rooms and baby boomers’ hearts.

6. Annette discusses the genesis of all those Billboard chart

hits with which the lunch counter jukebox was stocked.

Annette Funicello interview—reminisces about her singing career w/Tall Paul, etc (4:16)

7. A local Dallas affiliate announces a national shocker: JFK’s been killed!

Beside the newscaster sits Abraham Zapruder, whose just-recorded home

movie has captured the assassination as it happened. “Camelot” has ended.

JFK assassination reported by local Dallas newsman w/Zapruder film (2:32)

8. The first family, the nation, and the world mourn together,

courtesy of television.

JFK funeral (6:56)

9. All grown up by the mid-60s, Annette heads for the sand and surf

with her teen co-star Frankie Avalon in a series of breezy, cheesy Beach

Party films. A poster of bikini-clad Annette hangs over the lunch counter fryolator.

Muscle Beach Party Trailer (2:27)

10. No doubt Simone, Frances, and Felix Funicello were front and

center before the TV when the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan,

launching pop music’s British Invasion.

11. During the 1964 Presidential campaign, both Republicans and

Democrats appeal to Americans’ fear of nuclear annihilation at the hands

of the Soviets. LBJ beats Goldwater in a landslide, both at the polls and

in St. Aloysius Gonzaga’s mock election.

12. Felix’s classmate Marion Pemberton will later identify as one

of the defining markers of his life his sister’s participation in and injury

during the civil rights march across Alabama’s William Pettus Bridge.

Selma to Montgomery March (8:41)

13. When Felix and Lonny Flood skip church to go to the movies

instead, the film they see will keep Felix up nights with visions of

flying axes and severed heads.

Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte movie preview (2:49)

14. The TV hits of 1964 included monsters, melodrama, and Men

from U.N.C.L.E, and commercials toutedFord Motors’ latest model.

Peyton Place (6:27)

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2:23)

1964 Mustang Collection (1:02)

15. Frances Funicellos’ idol, Dusty Springfield, sings the novel’s

title song.

16. The late Dusty Springfield’s career is recalled by several of her

famous contemporaries.


17. In a video essay that resonates with Wishin’ & Hopin’s epilogue,

videographer AVDJ shares a meditation on the passage of time as

he wanders the grounds of the 1964–65 New York World’s Fair.

1964 World’s Fair: “What Time Is It? Past, Present, Future” (doc) (4:15)

About Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb is the critically acclaimed and beloved author of She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True and the editor of Couldn’t Keep It To Myself and I’ll Fly Away, two volumes of writing from the writing workshop he runs at York Correctional Institution. Both of his novels were #1 New York Times best-sellers and Oprah’s Book Club selections. Lamb’s books are neither short nor simple, but like a James Patterson of emotions, he pulls readers in and doesn’t let go. His third New York Times best-seller, The Hour I First Believed (Harper), is a profound and challenging work of fiction, which has been hailed by critics across the country. He is also the author of Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story (Harper), set in his fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut in the 1960s. His newest book, We Are Water (Harper), is a disquieting and ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy. Lamb proves himself a virtuoso storyteller, assembling a variety of voices and an ensemble of characters rich enough to evoke all of humanity.

Lamb contributes his time as a volunteer facilitator at York Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in Niantic, Connecticut. In 2003, Lamb published the first collection of writings by the students at his writing workshop at the Institution in Couldn’t Keep It To Myself. Writing, Lamb had found, was an unexpected and transforming way for these women to recapture their humanity and the hope that many of them had long since lost. The resulting collection offered a revealing window into the souls of once-powerless women, as they learned what it meant to gain control over their voices and, in many cases, their lives. The publication stirred controversy when the state of Connecticut attempted to sue the writers, but after 60 Minutes aired a piece celebrating the program, and one of the writers won a prestigious PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award – the program and the book were vindicated.

Lamb returned with I’ll Fly Away, a new volume of intimate, searching pieces from the York workshop. Here, in works of memoir, poetry, and introspection, 20 women, some of them familiar from Couldn’t Keep It To Myself, many heard here for the first time, share the experiences that shaped them from childhood, and that trouble and inspire them to this day. There are stories of anger, physical abuse, rape, and emotional distress, but also more positive memories: of expressions of love, of gifts received and remembered, of light moments from happier times. These portraits, vignettes, and stories are painted in many colors: innocence and pain, denial, redemption, and transcendence. At their heart, they all testify to the same core truth: the universal value of knowing oneself, and changing one’s life, through the power of the written word.

Lamb was the director of the Writing Center at the Norwich Free Academy in Norwich, Connecticut from 1989-1998 and an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Connecticut. He holds a B.A. and an M.A. in Education from the University of Connecticut and an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Christine, and their three sons.